This is Part 2 of Noise Road’s review of Roadburn 2011. Read Part 1 here.
An aviator hat and layers of clothes that would have prevented Scott of the Antarctic’s demise, allowed the successful negotiation of the cold, northern european night. The morning quickly warmed the one-man tent, and I found myself in line for the showers.
The advantage of the size of the Roadburn Festival (a few thousand punters) over the bigger European mega-festivals is that you stay at a dedicated campsite rather than farming fields. A dedicated campsite means permanent shower blocks (which are even cleaned everyday!).
Most festivals don’t have showers and the ones that do bring thoughts of showering in a concentration camp in occupied Europe…. Too bad I didn’t learn that the last two showers in the block didn’t have hot water until a brutally cold experience on the first morning. Maybe this is a concentration camp.
The smaller size also builds a friendly communal vibe, rather than a more isolated experience in a sea of 80,000 strangers. You see the same faces everyday. You have more than one conversation with your new friends.
In line for the showers, I got talking to a dude from Belfast. Despite having very similar outlooks on music, we had managed to not see any of the same bands on day one. And day two looked like we would only have one band in common. After the buzz of their performance yesterday, both of us had resolved to catch Year of No Light.
Year of No Light performs Vampyr Soundtrack
Why don’t more bands do this? It’s such a good idea. I remember in high school, queuing up Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon whilst simultaneously playing a muted VHS of the Wizard of Oz. Man I was adding meaning to any coincidental match-ups of the movie and the album….
But throw away your Wizard of Oz VHS *, Year of No Light are performing a live original score to an old silent movie (*Wait, you still have a VHS? You own the Wizard of Oz? What are you a 12 year old girl? Do you also own the High School Musical series?).
I wasn’t in a position to read the subtitles. Maybe that would have helped. What I gathered from the viewing is that Vampyr is a pretty trippy movie… Why aren’t modern vampire movies trippy? Not that I’ve seen the Twilight series but I’m guessing the only trippy thing about those movies is the mormon value system.
Year of No Light reworked passages of their latest, Ausserwelt, to the old german silent movie. Washes of guitars and keys provided an eerie feel to an already creepy movie. Glorious doom crescendos revealed the vampire, and witnessed the burial of the innocent.
I am now wondering whether all droney-doom albums are actually secretly soundtracks. It would explain those long ambient sections and bursts of massive riff.
I had not heard a note of Year of No Light before Roadburn – but it was one of my favourite sets of the festival. Not only is the doomy post-metal masterfully constructed, but the live soundtrack made the performance a unique event.
I caught half of Mammifer’s set of duelling pianos. I suspect I would have enjoyed it more if I was familiar with their work. Its always worth catching Isis’ Aaron Turner (on lead ponytails and beard) even if he is in a support role.
Trap Them were already sweating up the Green Room when I squeezed my way out of the Bat Cave venue.
Like Soilent Green last night, Trap Them stood out with a gear shift in energy and pace. To a festival of biblical riffs, they brought a hardcore base with blasts of grind, the odd moment of groove and plenty of punky enthusiasm.
They were an excellent addition to the bill, as their tempo and aggression ensured no doom fatigue today.
Vocalist Ryan McKenney was especially ferocious. A good frontman can make a huge difference. He joked early in the set that their would be a lot of dramatic pauses between songs, as their allotted set at Roadburn was twice as long as their usual stage time on hardcore bills.
They held nothing back, which might have been an issue. In a couple of hours they were due on an Antwerp stage as part of their tour with Rotten Sound and Gaza.
I’ll admit to zero underground cred. I hadn’t heard of Winter before their reunion show was announced for Roadburn. Obviously everyone else had – the main hall was full.
You can be sceptical about the quantity of reunion shows these days (what are the motivations? How rusty will they be? Will a band sound like a cover band of themselves?), but Winter were good.
Winter, and indeed the whole day, formed part of the Sunn 0))) curation. You could hear Sunn 0))) in the warm droney sections, as images of post-apocalyptic London and Seattle projected onto the stage. Much unlike Sunn 0))), Winter also dealt in thrashy, mid-tempo buzzes.
I caught Earth in Glasgow a week previous. I didn’t know you could find beauty in a Glasgow basement. In fact the only other gig I had caught in Glasgow was one of the worst of my life. I expected the December 2009, Public Image Limited Glasgow reunion show to be a train wreck, but it was nauseatingly bad – from the awful electro-pop opener, to John Lydon barely remembering a word, to being threatened when telling a punter to take it easy on a glassy he was manhandling.
But back on track. Both the Glasgow and Roadburn Earth performances were beautiful. Earth’s main man and guitarist, Carlson, has a fragility that comes through his notes. His sound is free of any rock ego or machismo.
Before the Earth gig in Glasgow, I was wondering what the experience would be like. In my head, Earth are linked to bands like Sunn 0))) and OM. At home these are quiet bands, but live these are earth-shuddering bands. You can feel Al’s overdriven bass on your chest at an OM gig. And as for a Sunn 0))) gig, well, just wait a few paragraphs…
So I was expecting a loud gig, but Earth live is a very delicate, fragile experience. It is quiet music. Carlson and his slow motion riffs celebrate the note. He is in no hurry to get to the next note – lets just experience this one to the fullest.
There wasn’t the distorted hum of the seminal drone album, Earth 2. While Carlson did dig back to the first album, the focus was on ultra-slow, spaghetti-western riffs of Earth’s modern era. The Cellist’s counter-melodies interwove with Carlson’s riffs on songs old and new. The drummer felt every one of her gentle strikes. And the bassist counted eternities until the next note.
The set included a track, Multiplicity of Doors, from the upcoming album. Apparently the song is a waltz. Dude, I don’t think sloths move slow enough to waltz to that number.
I listen to Earth quite a bit. I listen to their slow-motion, spaghetti-western music, as I ease into the morning and I listen to their earlier drone stuff when I’m drifting to sleep. I love that warm hum. I am a fan.
I am also a fan of Sunn 0))). They are the kings of drone. Yet I rarely listen to a Sunn 0))) album…. But I would never miss an opportunity to catch Sunn 0))) live. It is a unique experience that could never be successfully captured by any recording medium.
Where Earth celebrate the note, Sunn 0))) celebrate the hum of their amps. They celebrate the sinusoidal wave of the note.
Tonight, there are no riffs. No guitar washes. I guess if you speed it up 10 fold you could say that there were chord progressions.
Sunn 0))) is not just an aural experience, its a physical experience. You might feel a kick drum on your chest at a metal gig, or even the buzz of guitars shaking you at a Dinosaur Jr gig, but the vast array of amps at Sunn 0))) don’t just shake your hair and your skin, I believe internal organs are in some kind of pre-jellification status.
I believe even Dick Cheney stopped short of using Sunn 0))) as a method of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Even the devil has his limits.
Vocals were a feature tonight. Keiji Haino performed a long session of Patton-style, vocal theatrics over the slightly subdued hum. There was even a vocal duel between Keiji and Sunn 0))) regular, Attila. A demonic duet.
Roadburn’s website posted an interesting series of videos from last year’s festival. They asked about Master Musician’s of Bukkake’s use of over-the-top costumes and stage theatrics. They commented that you couldn’t do this stuff in a band shirt and jeans – it just wouldn’t work. The same applies to Sunn 0))). So while the theatrics are ridiculous, there is no other way….
Sunn 0))) are druids. Their guest vocalist wielded a cane. Its all smoke and Attila’s croaking vocals and shrieks… If you took the music away, it would border on Spinal Tap. But the music is there and it’s awesome.
Sunn 0))) completely emptied my brain. Reborn, but exhausted, I returned to the campsite, to start a life in a post Sunn 0))) world.
Tomorrow brings Master Musicians of Bukkake, Rwake, Ludicra, Swans and Shrinebuilder!